WAPO – ‘Has the era of the climate change refugee begun?’

Story submitted by Barry Brill

The Washington Post’s recent story that New Zealand might admit climate refugees from Tuvalu has no basis in fact.

“Tuvalu has become the epicenter of a landmark refugee ruling that could mark the beginning of a wave of similar cases: On June 4, a family was granted residency by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal in New Zealand after claiming to be threatened by climate change in its home country, Tuvalu.”: [Washington Post (Rick Noack) Aug 7 2014 ]

There are two major problems with this report:
• climate change in Tuvalu played no role in the Tribunal’s decision
• Tuvalu residents are not being threatened by climate change

Sigeo Alesano left Tuvalu with his family in 2007. He over-stayed his New Zealand visitor permit and was declined a work permit in 2011. After his 2012 application for refugee status was dismissed, he appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal whose decision ([2014] NZIPT 501370-371) was handed down on 4 June 2014.

The appeal was based on humanitarian grounds. Mr Alesano did not want his family to be separated from his unwell mother and five sisters, all of whom reside in New Zealand with their families. Both his children were born in New Zealand.
A supplementary ground was that deporting Mr Alesano and his family to Tuvalu could put them “at risk of suffering the adverse impacts of overpopulation, climate change and socio-economic deprivation”. The appellant said that “land on both the lagoon and seaward sides of his home island was inundated with sea-water regularly during monthly king-tides”.

The Tribunal, in turn, was inundated by lawyers with papers and reports about floods of refugees expected from future climate change. As noted by the Washington Post, “the case was closely followed by immigration and environmental lawyers all over the world”.
The result of this gambit? A total damp squib.

The Tribunal neatly sidestepped with –

“[32] As for the climate change issue relied on so heavily, while the Tribunal accepts that exposure to the impacts of natural disasters can, in general terms, be a humanitarian circumstance, nevertheless, the evidence in appeals such as this must establish not simply the existence of a matter of broad humanitarian concern, but that there are exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature such that it would be unjust or unduly harsh to deport the particular appellant from New Zealand.
[33] It is not, however, necessary on the facts of this appeal to reach any conclusion on this issue in relation to any of the appellants as the Tribunal is satisfied that by reason of the other factors identified in this case, there are exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian [nature] and that it would be unjust or unduly harsh for the appellants to be deported from New Zealand.”

So much for “the landmark ruling”.
Even if Tuvalu climate effects had figured in the decision, the case would have provided a poor precedent for other countries. Mr Noack quotes Vernon Rive, an Auckland legal academic:

“I don’t see it as delivering any kind of ‘verdict’ on climate change…. The family only succeeded because it claimed “exceptional humanitarian grounds,” which is a wording recognized in New Zealand’s immigration legislation but not by many other governments.”

Mr Noack also cites a report of Norway’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre finding that low-income countries bear the major burden of disaster-related displacement. That report contends that the Oceania region saw 129,000 people displaced by natural disasters during 2008-12, but does not find a single case of displacement as a result of climate-change-induced sea level rise in Tuvalu – or in any other Pacific small island state.
Why did this obscure and distant non-event make headlines in Washington (and Toronto and elsewhere)? Clearly, the press is flailing desperately to resuscitate their much-loved disaster story which has long lost momentum with the public.

Tuvalu not drowning
If any future Immigration Tribunal does find it necessary to consider actual conditions in Tuvalu, they will discover that media-boosted fears of drowning islands are little more than fanciful. Just this month, ‘Science’ magazine reported:

“Paul Kench, a geomorphologist who now heads the University of Auckland’s School of Environment in New Zealand, was the first to question the dire forecasts for Kiribati and similar island nations. In 1999, the World Bank asked him to evaluate the economic costs of sea-level rise and climate change to Pacific island nations. Kench, who had been studying how atoll islands evolve over time, says he had assumed that a rising ocean would engulf the islands, which consist of sand perched on reefs. “That’s what everyone thought, and nobody questioned it,” he says. But when he scoured the literature, he could not find a single study to support that scenario.”

Kench found that higher waves raised island elevations by depositing sand produced from broken coral, coralline algae, mollusks, and foraminifera. Reefs can grow 10 to 15 millimeters a year—faster than IPCC projections of sea-level rise “As long as the reef is healthy and generates an abundant supply of sand, there’s no reason a reef island can’t grow and keep up,” Kench argues.

The ‘Science’ article says media images of washed-away villages on Pacific atolls are invariably caused by poor shoreline management. People encroach on active beaches, mine sand for construction, over-use the freshwater lenses, damage coral with dynamite-fishing, and erect poorly designed seawalls .

Kiribati’s President Tong is a vocal member of the Small Island States negotiating group in UN climate talks. In an interview with CNN in June he insisted that global warming meant “total annihilation” for his country as well as Tuvalu, the Maldives and other atolls. He announced that Kiribati had spent $8.7 million to buy 22 square kilometres of land in Fiji as a haven for its displaced citizens.

The purchase was “a publicity stunt” scoffs Teburoro Tito, a former President, noting that the steep Fijian land could accommodate only a few hundred people. It was reminiscent of an earlier propaganda effort when the Maldives held a cabinet meeting under water to dramatize their claims.
Ten years ago, Willis Eschenbach published fully-referenced observational data showing Tuvalu had experienced no acceleration of sea level rise since the high-quality SEAFRAME recording systems were installed by Australia in 1993. http://www.academia.edu/1097977/Tuvalu_not_experiencing_increased_sea_level_rise.
In 2010, Dr Vincent Gray described the SEAFRAME system and showed that no material sea level rise occurred in any of 12 Pacific islands (including Tuvalu) except during the course of cyclones or tsunamis. http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/sea-levels-gray.pdf

Drowning has not just been deferred as a result of the 17-year ‘hiatus’ in global warming. Satellite images confirm that the observed 15-cm global sea-level rise over the past half-century has had no discernible effect on atolls.

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46 thoughts on “WAPO – ‘Has the era of the climate change refugee begun?’

  1. As the climate changes I will become a ‘climate change refugee’ ……..

    & head south to keep warm !!

  2. Non sequitur

    “On June 4, a family was granted residency by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal in New Zealand after claiming to be threatened by climate change in its home country, Tuvalu.”:

    On June 4 a gamily was granted residency by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal in New Zealand after watching episodes of Gilligan’s Island and just wanting to get off the island.

  3. Why oh why must we let trifling facts get in the way?

    Huh?….Huh?

    Get with the narra….programme won’t you?

  4. Fibbers, liars, lawyers and politicians.
    They all connive to make their money.
    To live on tropical island.

  5. I too am a climate refugee. In 1978 I escaped from the Frozen North [Cincinnati] and was granted refuge in Florida [Sarasota]. Not once in those 26 years have I wanted move back to the Frozen North because the climate was more hospitable.

  6. Eric Worrall on August 12, 2014 at 1:56 am

    I’m a climate change refugee, I moved to the tropics because I can’t stand the cold anymore… :-)

    You beat me to it, I did the same. Loving it now, although I still need a heat pump for the pool in winter: Damned global warming is not doing its job.

  7. Since when, during the era of cliamte hype and fear, has major media let facts stand in the way of a climate doom story?
    It would be interesting to send a complaint regarding this bit of faux news, along with the documentation showing the article to be factually wrong, to the WAPO ombudsman.

  8. I remember this case because I was unfamiliar with the citizenship laws of NZ. IN the US of course, his children would be natural born citizens having been born in the country, but as some of the NZ posters informed me, that is not the case in NZ.

    The shoddiness of the reporting by WaPo is indicative of the sorry state of journalism today. And the reason that it can not be used as a source for any accurate information.

  9. In Canada, we are already experiencing the psychological effects of anticipated warming on our beautiful northland. Many suffer from what is known in the literature as Global Warming Anticipation Syndrome (GWAP). Getting away — six months in Phoenix — seems to help.

  10. The denier moniker does not seem to fit sketics any longer. When lies start to decrease in sophistication and increase in quantity I start to realise for the alarmists, denial is not a river in Egypt.

  11. Eric Worrall says:
    August 12, 2014 at 1:56 am

    I’m a climate change refugee, I moved to the tropics because I can’t stand the cold anymore… :-)

    Eric:

    With all due respect — you are a “Climate won’t change” refugee!

    I am contemplating the same trek as it is too darn cold here — even in southern Ontario.

  12. “There are two major problems with this report:
    • climate change in Tuvalu played no role in the Tribunal’s decision
    • Tuvalu residents are not being threatened by climate change”

    Well, but other than that, this is only the beginning of the upcoming climate refugee crisis.

    One day we will all look back at the “good old days” when the climate wasn’t changing.

  13. Hey, thanks to all who have posted above – you’ve reminded me:

    I, too, moved from the North (Virginia Beach/North Carolina area) to the Tampa Bay, Florida area.

    Hadn’t thought to apply for refugee status. Wonder if there are tax breaks, low-interest loans, housing assistance, and maybe even the big one – special parking privileges?

    Add all that to the money I save on Early Bird Specials at the local restaurants and I’ll be living like a refugee king!

  14. BallBounces
    August 12, 2014 at 5:03 am

    Is Global Warming Anticipation Syndrome (GWAP) adequately compensated by Global Warming Attention Deficit Disorder (GWADD)?

  15. Ian Fry, Tuvalu’s lead negotiator, told delegates at the IPCC’s Copenhagen conference in 2009:
    “I woke up this morning crying, and that’s not easy for a grown man to admit, the fate of my country rests in your hands”. Delegates applauded wildly.
    (However,it was discovered that he was not from Tuvalu at all. He’s a lawyer from Queanbeyan, Australia – an ex-Greenpeace liaison officer and specializes in island nations.)

  16. Michael Gerrard, Director for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, puts current progress in perspective: “The world community has not even begun to grapple with what is to come”
    Yes, ManBearPig Globally Catastrophic Anthropogenic Cimate Whatever (GCACW) is coming soon. People will be fleeing for their lives in order to escape its horrible grasp. The world community must immediately come to grips with the enormity of our situation, or worldwide disaster, on a scale noone can even imagine will ensue.
    I’m super cereal.

  17. @JohnWho

    “One day we will all look back at the “good old days” when the climate wasn’t changing.”

    Ha ha ha! That’s a good one! And when was this time when ‘the climate wasn’t changing’?

  18. As if the age of the climate refuge is something new. People fled south during the last ice age. That was climate refugee-ism. During the Little Ice Age, crop failures were common. People from Europe fled to America in droves. They were climate refugees.

    Every year, thousands of northerners tire of the cold, ice, and snow and permanently relocate to the southwest and the sunbelt. Miami is full of New Yorkers who fled the New England climate.

    What we’re seeing now is people smart enough to exploit the zeigeist. Want to relocate to another country with better infrastructure and more opportunities? What’s the easiest way — claim refugee status. No war, no civil strife to use? Claim climate refugee and the bureaucrats will rubber stamp your application faster than you can say “no global warming in 17 years.”

  19. The Washington Post will be of great benefit to the coming climate change refugees of North America. The many unsold and quickly-discarded copies can be tightly rolled up and carried with them for building fires to stay warm as they migrate south. You can also peel off a layer for use as toilet paper, which is not as efficient nor as comfortable when using sections of real tree branches.

  20. In the late ’80s, I escaped the -30F Ohio blizzards and moved to South Florida. In 30 years the temperature here is still the same and the beach is still there with no visible sea rise. Go figure…

  21. Crispin in Waterloo but really in Jakarta says:
    August 12, 2014 at 7:23 am

    @JohnWho

    “One day we will all look back at the “good old days” when the climate wasn’t changing.”

    Ha ha ha! That’s a good one! And when was this time when ‘the climate wasn’t changing’?

    Well, it was, um, uh, oh yeah – “back in the good old days”.

    Yeah, that’s it. That’s the ticket!

    /grin

  22. According to the emotion-laden lie-infested schlockumentary, Climate Refugees, there were 25 million “climate refugees” at the time the movie first aired in 2010, with 50 million predicted by 2011 (how’s that for a hockey stick?).
    Apparently, anyone needing to move (even temporarily) due to bad weather is a “climate refugee”.
    Because for them, weather does indeed mean climate.

  23. Sigeo Alesano left Tuvalu with his family in 2007. He over-stayed his New Zealand visitor permit and was declined a work permit in 2011. After his 2012 application for refugee status was dismissed, he appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal whose decision ([2014] NZIPT 501370-371) was handed down on 4 June 2014

    Not that I doubt the accuracy, but do you have any sources for that. I just hate it when very important, if not critical claims have no source links.

  24. Roy says:
    August 12, 2014 at 10:32 am
    ###

    How about learning how to do your OWN research? That’s what a REAL scientist does. I just hate it when stupid trolls nit-pick at irrelevant trivialities in a limp wristed effort to denigrate an article.

    [Roy is entitled to make that point. We do prefer there to be supporting links for important issues, unfortunately there were not in this case. - mod]

  25. If global warming was truly a reality, this would stop the flood of climate refugees from Canada to Florida every year. The number of Canadians falling into this category is estimated to be about 500,000. Let me know when this becomes a reality. This is the true test for the existence of “unprecedented” global warming.

  26. What I am looking forward to, is the era of refugees from criminal prosecution wrt CAGW.
    I am sure China, Russia and Saudi Arabia will be proud to accept these refugees from justice.

  27. IIRC, the UN-designated source countries for climate refugees experienced a large net influx of confused immigrants.

  28. more soylent green! says:
    August 12, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Every year, thousands of northerners tire of the cold, ice, and snow and permanently relocate to the southwest and the sunbelt. Miami is full of New Yorkers who fled the New England climate.

    I moved to New England in 1974 and don’t expect to ever be ready for Florida.

    New York is not New England – they have their own climate that makes them crazy enough like ours. Except we have the good sense not to put tomatoes in our clam chowder.

  29. Well, I’m another who’s gone to Florida. First visited here about 40 years ago. Strange thing is, the beaches are the same, the sea has not risen detectibly, the temperatures and weather are about the same.

    @Ric:

    Clam Chowder does not contain tomatoes. Tomato soup with clams does. ;-)

  30. As someone pointed out recently (sorry, I can’t remember who), there are coral atolls all over the Pacific. They didn’t all happen by chance to be at exactly sea level. Sea level is where they grow to. Rising sea level in itself is no threat at all.

  31. Yeah real smart Tuvalu, migrate from a 3rd world tropical Island, to a 3rd world temperate island.
    At least you have tropical weather, and low energy (heating) needs, but don’t let that stop you claiming refugee status.
    Welcome to New Zealand, a cooler climate, with very high living costs and a low wage economy to look forward too.

    Not too worry, the shrinking middle income earners will be thrilled to give you tax payer provided state house, an unemployment benefit, free health care and free schools.

    I mean its not like we’re working longer hours for less (in real terms) for our own benefit, no no, you wander down here, i’m sure I don’t need all those services you’ll exploit,…I mean utilize.

    Ever had a serious Kiwi head cold during a New Zealand winter? bring the kids, i’m sure you’ll quickly get the difference between Green Policy and snot.

    Although they are practically the same. At least snot can be amusing when properly aimed.

    To quote a Kiwi Icon who had to emigrate to Australia to be recognized as a kiwi Icon…
    “You don’t know how Lucky you are mate…”

  32. Well, I moved from Northern Virginia to Western Washington. So I went from south to north. Oddly enough, it’s not colder or warmer here, it’s less cold and less warm. Much more moderate climate. I do miss massive thunderstorms, though. Just don’t get them out here.

  33. WillR, the cllimate is changing. Canada has lost 5.4 C in the winter since 2010. My husband and I are climate refugee’s also, moving from Southern Ontario to the Bahamas for 6 mths of the year. It may be getting too cold in the summer here to come back here for that. Friends from Ontario have moved to Florida and Mexico. Another friend from Calgary moved to Nicaragua. We Canadians are the 21st century climate refugee’s.

  34. and the fake CAGW story continues to spread:

    includes video with Ove Hoegh-Guldberg!

    12 Aug: TheWeatherNetwork: Cheryl Santa Maria: New Zealand accepts climate change refugees from Tuvalu
    According to news agency UPI, this is the first time refugees have blamed climate change on their displacement…
    Experts suspect the family was granted special status because they had been living in New Zealand since 2007 and have close ties to the country.
    Still, climate change migration expert François Gemenne told the Washington Post that “bilaterial or regional arrangements” may be necessary in the future to ensure the protection of people displaced by climate change…

    http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/new-zealand-accepts-climate-change-refugees-from-tuvalu/33934/

  35. hunter says:
    Since when, during the era of cliamte hype and fear, has major media let facts stand in the way of a climate doom story?

    FIFY

  36. Happy to take refugees from Climate Change.Just don’t mention boat loads headed from Iraq ,Syria ,Sudan Libya and Afghanistan.

  37. As a Kiwi, it’s good to see my tax dollars at work — civil servants and lawyers beavering away in the best interests of the nation.

    But brother, as a resident of Mangawhai, in what is laughingly referred to as the “winterless north” of this South Pacific rockpile, I would right now give my left testicle for a bit of AGW . . . it’s like Siberia in March here; worst winter in twenty years.

    I’ll also endorse zenrebok’s comments and thank Mark and his Cats for this morning’s moment of amusement.

  38. Roy – As Google would have told you, the Tribunal decision in [2014] NZIPT 501370-371 is at https://forms.justice.govt.nz/search/IPT/Documents/Deportation/pdf/rem_20140604_501370.pdf

    NZ Willy points out that the New Zealand Immigration Tribunal recently denied refugee status to another would-be “climate refugee” from Tuvalu’s neighbor, Kiribati. Ioane Teitiota then appealed to the High Court, which ruled that the UN Convention was limited to persons “with a well-founded fear of persecution” – and did not extend to natural disasters or global warming.

    The Judge said Teitoa’s attempt to expand the definition of a refugee was optimistic and novel, but not permissible. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9444559/Climate-refugee-loses-appeal

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